What is in the Bible?
I continue the series of messages on Authorship of the Bible. Today I will discuss, What is in the Bible?
It is no secret that American culture is becoming increasingly post-Christian.
Recent research reveals that only 23% of Millennials believe that Scripture is truly the Word of God. Another 26% have adopted a liberal interpretation of Scripture by believing that it may contain some of the Word of God but should not be taken literally. In short, less than half of the next generation have any respect for the text of Scripture, and only a small minority of that group believe that it is authoritative.
Consider this data in light of William Edgar’s observation that “…Christians have grown so used to their own language, terms, and culture that they have become isolated from those who surround them” (Reasons of the Heart, 12).
There is a two-fold problem at hand:
1. In our proclamation, we have assumed a Christian worldview on the part of our listeners, and this is a false assumption.
2. As we are communicating poorly, our audience isn’t even listening.
For instance, when speaking of the gospel picture housed in the relationship between a husband and his wife, we must preach (even briefly) an apologetic for God’s definition of marriage. The marriage covenant is one of the clearest pictures of the gospel, and it has practical applications for Christian living. However, it is under assault. So, when preaching on marriage or the picture of the gospel it provides, we must include apologetic elements.
A skeptic in London, in speaking of the Bible, said that it was quite impossible in these days to believe in any book whose authorship is unknown. A Christian asked if the compiler of the multiplication table was known. “No!” he answered. “Then, of course, you do not believe in it.” “Oh yes,” was the skeptic’s reply “I believe in it because it works well.” “So does the Bible,” was the rejoinder. The skeptic had no answer to that.
The late Dr. R. G. Lee, former pastor of the Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis TN expressed the value of God’s Word in this way:
“The Bible is a book beyond all books as a river is above and beyond a rivulet. The Bible is a book beyond all books as the sun is above and beyond a candle in brightness. The Bible is a book beyond all books as the wings of an eagle is above and beyond the wings of a sparrow. It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in value, immeasurable in influence, infinite in scope, divine in authorship, human in penmanship, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in application, and inspired in totality. This is the Book that has walked more paths, travelled more highways, knocked at more doors and spoken to more people in their mother tongue than in other book this world has ever known or will know.”
2 Peter 1:20-21
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, for the prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Before we look closer to this passage, we must first make sure that we fully understand what “prophecy of the Scripture” means. The reason I say this is because the word prophecy is used today almost always for speaking about things of the future. However, this is not the only Biblical usage of this word. Biblically speaking, “to prophesy” means to speak things that come directly from the spiritual ground . Whether what is spoken is about the future or not is not relevant.
Having clarified what prophecy means, we can easily understand what “prophecy of the Scripture” means: it simply means the Bible as a whole, as the sum of the separate prophecies that compose it. Thus, what 2 Peter tells us is that no part of the Bible (“no prophecy of the Scripture”), came by the will of man. This means that it wasn’t Paul for example, who one day decided to sit down and write a letter to Ephesians. If it happened like this, Ephesians would be written by the will of man which the Bible rules out. To find how Paul and the others made their contributions to the Bible we do not have but to continue reading in the same passage. The answer is in the latter part of verse 21 where we are told that the prophecy of the Scripture i.e. the Bible was written by holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, who wrote the Bible? Holy men of God. How did they write it? As they were moved by God, Who is the Holy Spirit. So yes Paul, John and the others were the writers of the Bible. But they were not the authors. The author of the Bible is God, who moved people, like Paul, Peter and John to write down what He wanted, what He authored. And if you ask how did God move them, Galatians gives us the answer for the case of Paul which is also the same for all the others: Galatians 1:11-12 “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I RECEIVED IT BY REVELATION…”
The way that God moved those people was not by possession, for God never possesses anybody (I Corinthians 14:32-33). Instead, it was by revelation. In other words, God told Paul what to write and Paul sat down and wrote it. Who therefore wrote Galatians? Paul. Whose ideas, signature and authorship Galatians bears? God’s. Hence, who is the author? God is the author. What were men like Paul and the others that contributed to the Bible? They were the writers that wrote down what the author, God, told them. That’s why the Bible, though it was written by many, has one and the same author: GOD. It is like the director and the secretary. The secretary writes down what the director tells her. Who does the writing? The secretary. Whose ideas it contains? The director’s who thus is the author. And as a director can have many writers, so also God had many writers to write down what He wanted.
All the Bible or Scripture is God-breathed, has God as the author, and it was written by people as they were moved by God i.e. by revelation.
The way that the “stories” of the Bible are different from the stories in your average bookstore. Though the stories are entertaining, they are not given for our entertainment. It might surprise you that I would speak of the Bible as entertaining. Whatever type of literature that you like to read, you will find some of it in the Bible. If you like romance, check out Ruth and the Song of Solomon. If you like stories of war, go into 1 & 2 Kings. If you like intrigue and treachery, examine the book of Judges. If you like adventure, look at Acts, Genesis, Exodus and many other books. If you like philosophy, study the Gospel of John, Ecclesiastes and the letters to the New Testament churches. You will find some entertainment from these books. But they have a different purpose. (1 Cor 10:11 NIV) These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. The purpose for the recording of these events was so that we might learn from the successes and failures of those who have gone before us. They were recorded so that we might get a picture of God and His goodness, and that we might get a picture of ourselves and our sinfulness. They were written that we might understand through the lives and experiences of others that every time man refuses to do things God’s way, man makes a mess of His world. And they were written that we might see that God can be trusted, and that He loves us in spite of ourselves.
The Bible is not a history book. It does not attempt to give us every detail of human history. (John 21:25 NIV) Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. If John had written everything that Jesus said and did, we would have a hard time carrying our Bibles with us to church every Sunday. But what John and the other biblical writers did record is historically accurate and given for one single purpose. (1 John 5:13 NIV) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. Every story of the Bible can be summed up in this one statement: God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. That may be the hardest thing of all to believe. But God said it, and so I believe it. You can expect the promises in the Bible to be fulfilled.
One of the first promises that God ever made was to a man named Abraham. In Gen. 12, God promised him that He would give him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. He promised him that He would make him into a great nation. He promised him that He would make his name great. He promised him that in him, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham believed God’s promise, but he had to wait a long time before that promise was fulfilled. Not until Abraham was 100 years old, and his wife Sarah was 99 years old did they hold a son in their arms. Abraham’s descendants through that son became the nation of Israel. Simeon too was an old man. God had made a promise to him that he would see the Savior of Israel and all mankind before he died. Simeon was one of the first to hold Jesus in his arms. God made a promise to Mary. He promised her that even though she was a virgin, she would give birth to God’s own Son. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable. When God says that He is going to do something, you can be sure that it will happen.
What are some of the promises that God has made to you?
You can be a child of God (John 1:12 NIV) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
You will never be alone (Heb. 13:8) . . . God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
You will be forgiven (1 John 1:9 NIV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
You can have peace (Phil 4:7 NIV) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
You have a home (John 14:2 NIV) In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
You will have success (Josh 1:8 NIV) Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Everything will work out for good (Rom 8:28 NIV) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
This is just a small sampling of the promises that God has made. I hope that you noticed something about these promises as I listed them off for you. Some of the promises that God makes will happen regardless of what we do. But most of them have a requirement that we have to fulfill before we can take advantage of the promise. In order to have forgiveness of sins, we must confess our sins. In order to have peace, we must think about the things that God tells us to think about. In order to be a child of God, we must believe on Jesus and accept Him as the Lord of our lives.
Some of you may be sitting there thinking that God let you down on some promise that He made to you at some point in your life. And because of that supposed failure, you have turned your back on God, or you have refused to trust Him with your life. When you are evaluating God’s performance record on how well He fulfills His promises, you need to ask yourself three questions. One, where did I get the idea that God promised that thing to me? Is it specifically recorded in the Bible? Or is it a feeling that I have – a wish that God would do something special for me?
Second, have I fulfilled the requirements that must happen before this promise can be realized in my life? Have I done what is required of me? If not, then I have no right to expect God to do what He said that He would do. Third, am I giving God the right to fulfill His promise in His own timing? God makes promises, and He will fulfill them, but He will do so when He is ready. Abraham experienced that, and we are experiencing it today. One promise that God made is that His son Jesus is coming back to earth one day. (Acts 1:11 NIV) “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” This is one promise that will happen regardless of what we do or fail to do, but it will happen in God’s own timing. (2 Pet 3:4,8-10 NIV) They will say, “Where is this ’coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come . . .
God has filled the Bible with promises to us, but the only way for us to know what those promises are, take advantage of them in our own lives, and receive the peace that they provide is by getting into the Bible and discovering them for ourselves.
Bill was a young man from a wealthy family, and he was getting ready to graduate from high school. Bill lived on the nice side of town where the custom was that graduating seniors received a new car for their graduation gift. Bill and his father had spent months looking at cars trying to pick just the right one. Then, the week before graduation, they found it – the perfect car. Bill could hardly sit still during the graduation ceremonies. He knew what would be waiting for him when he got home. His dad had promised. When Bill got home, he was a little surprised to see that there was no new car in the driveway. But he figured that maybe they had it parked at a neighbor’s house – you know, to make the surprise a little better. You can imagine Bill’s disappointment when his dad handed him a new Bible and told him that was his graduation gift. In anger, Bill threw the Bible down, walked out the door and never again saw his dad alive. Not until his dad’s death did he come back home. After the funeral, Bill was going through his dad’s stuff when he found the Bible that his dad had tried to give him so many years ago. Something was sticking out of it, so he opened it. To his amazement, he discovered a cashier’s check dated on the night of his graduation and made out for the exact amount that he would have needed to purchase that brand new car. Because he refused the Bible, Bill lost out on the promised car and on the relationship that he had with his Dad.
The Bible records all the promises that God has ever made to you. But if you never open the book, you will never be able to take advantage of the promises. What’s worse is that you will never get to enjoy a relationship with the one who made those promises. Especially if you let your intelect get in the way, and try to have the Bible conform to your reasoning! You can expect the promises in the Bible to be fulfilled because God is the one who made the promises.
You can trust the wisdom of the Bible to give you direction. There’s something about being a man that causes us to refuse to ask for directions when there is any possibility that we might be lost. One commercial that I’ve seen recently on TV is of a young guy who is in the car with his girlfriend. They are obviously lost. For the love of the girl, the guy finally agrees to stop at a gas station to ask for directions. He walks into the station and slowly makes his way up to another guy at the counter where he, in a soft, timid voice says, “Can you give me directions? I’m lost.” The guy behind the counter stares at him for a second, dumbfounded that he would admit being lost, and then snickers. When the guy gets back to the car, he’s holding a map and says, “Supposedly these things are supposed to show you where to go.”
God has already given us wisdom in His Word to give us direction. But it’s not direction about how to put a train set together or how to get around town. It’s direction about how to live our lives in such a way that we will receive the most satisfaction and fulfillment from them. (Psa 119:105 NIV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psa 119:130 NIV) The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (Prov 6:23 NIV) For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, (2 Pet 1:19 NIV) And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. God’s Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. It tells me where I need to go and what I need to do when I get there.
For several weeks this summer and early fall, we spent time going through the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Proverbs is a book recorded by the wisest man who ever lived – Solomon. Solomon observed life and people, and then he took his observations and drew conclusions about what people are like, how foolishly they behave sometimes, and what the proper way for them to deal with the situations they face in life is. Solomon recorded wisdom about the proper way to deal with finances, how to make friends and keep them, how to achieve success, what the real meaning of beauty is, the importance of telling the truth, and the significance of having God as the center of your life.
Sometimes, the reason that we do not follow wise directions is because those directions are not clear. A man called his neighbor to help him move a couch that had become stuck in the doorway. They pushed and pulled until they were exhausted, but the couch wouldn’t budge. “Forget it,” the man finally said. “We’ll never get this in.” The neighbor looked at him quizzically and said, “In?” God’s wisdom is not like that. The directions that He gives are very clear. When he says in Eph 5, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and sacrificed Himself for her”, that’s pretty clear. And when He says in that same passage, “Wives, submit to your husbands as unto the Lord” & “Children, obey your parents”, that’s pretty clear. But you may say, “There’s a lot in the Bible that I do not understand. There’s a lot of it that is not clear to me.” Join the club. There’s a lot of the Bible that is not clear to me either. But as Mark Twain said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that trouble me; it’s the parts of the Bible that I do understand.” I have a suspicion that if we spent all of our time doing our best to be obedient to the parts of the Bible that we do understand, that at the end of our lives when we stand before God, we would find that we had done a pretty good job of obeying the parts that we didn’t understand too.
Our problem is not a lack of understanding; it is a lack of obedience. A man and his wife were traveling through town to get to some friends’ house for dinner. They had never been to this particular city, so they had gone to the internet where they found street-by-street directions. Everything went well until they got into the city. [begin to give excuses of why they chose not to turn down certain streets “bad part of town”, “steep hill and it’s starting to snow”, “dirty street – just had the car cleaned”, “saw a billboard ahead that I wanted to get a look at”] The problem was not in the one who gave the directions. The directions were good. The failure was in the ones who had received the directions. They didn’t like what the directions said, so they picked out their own pathway. Those people who refuse to follow the directions that they are given wind up getting very, very lost and are never able to enjoy the relationship with the friends who were waiting for them at the end of their journey.
You can trust the wisdom of the Bible to give you direction because the wisdom comes from God.
You must obey the commands of the Bible to receive God’s blessing.
– Noah and the ark
– Peter and the great catch of fish Luke 5:5 “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and
haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” The result: “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.”
– Us – “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.” “Love your enemies, & pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44) “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:2)
You must obey the commands recorded in the Bible for you. They come from God.
You must heed the warnings of the Bible to escape God’s wrath.
– Adam and Eve
– Achan and the Israelites
– Unsaved church members (Mt. 7:21-23) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’”
– Revelation is a warning
One day, a little girl picked up a book of poems. They were dry as dust. They meant nothing to her, so she put the book down. Later, she was introduced to a man. She began to become quite interested in him. She learned that he was a poet. Furthermore, she learned that he had written the book of poetry that she had looked at. She went back and picked up that same book of poems, only now she found them very interesting. The difference was that now she knew the author.
Do you know the Author of this Book?
Search me O God and know my heart
Test me and know my anxious thoughts
See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
Forgive us for not making you real.
Forgive us for not studying your word as we ought so we mat find you.
Make us real. With a Circumsized and a heart after you!
In Jesus Precious name, Amen.